When you think about some iconic Canadian destinations, the Rocky Mountains immediately come to mind. The one thing that can easily be forgotten is that Canada is a really REALLY large country, and while the Rockies are indeed a sight to behold (as we showed you in our last road trip post) we have a new must-see destination on our radar! I am talking about the real East COAST: the Maritimes. The Maritime provinces, PEI, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are home to people and culture that are vastly different from the rest of the country. It literally felt like we were in a different world. The coast has quickly become one of my favourite places to visit and I am already planning my return, but until then I want to share with you this amazing experience… just in case you are heading that way before I do.
Our East Coast adventure began with a simple e-mail, yet a dream offer nonetheless. We were asked to document a great Canadian road trip as American Express Cardmembers and the destination was ours for the choosing. Having grown up with Anne of Green Gables I knew exactly where I wanted to go. Behind this amazing trip was an equally amazing brand: American Express Canada. The American Express Travel team and our American Express Platinum Concierge were our guides, second pair of eyes and a helping hand every step of the way. Amex offers a simple, easy to use travel booking site that is accessible to ALL American Express Cardmembers with competitive pricing, hotel sales and destination information. And for American Express Platinum Cardmembers, the benefits spread across over 900 premium properties throughout the world, which means you will be taken care of anywhere you choose to go.
This must have been one of the most seamless trips we have ever done. Before our departure, I spoke to our Platinum Concierge & Travel teams and outlined all the spots we wanted to hit while we were on our trip. Not knowing much about that part of Canada, I was going in pretty much blind folded. Our lives have gotten so busy that we hardly have the time to dream up destinations, let alone research them. I really loved the whole Amex travel experience because not only did they book our flights and hotels, but they also planned our itinerary, keeping in mind all of the things we wanted to see and do. They even helped us book reservations at some of the best restaurants! The East Coast is widely known for their amazing seafood, so you guessed we had lobster chowder all day, every day (actually not even exaggerating).
We enjoyed our Amex Travel benefits from the moment we stepped out of the cab at Toronto’s Pearson Airport. Thanks to the Cloud 10 and Platinum Card offerings, we breezed through the security line and also had access to free Wi-Fi and free music and book downloads to help us relax before our flight. Some additional on-site benefits available to Platinum Cardmembers include complimentary valet services, 15% parking discount at Express Park in Terminal 1 and Daily Park in Terminals 1 & 3 , discounts on car care, priority taxi and limo lanes and my favourite, complimentary access to Plaza Premium lounges! It was my first time at the Plaza Premium Lounge at Pearson and let me just say that getting to the airport early is definitely worth it! Think lots of comfortable seating space, free food and for those in need of some liquid courage, even an open bar! Amex had me feeling like more than just a Cardmember with these travel benefits, we were total VIPs.
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND (PEI)
Where to stay: the Holeman Grand Hotel in the heart of Charlottetown (used $200 Cardmember Travel Credit)
Where to eat: Sims Corner Steakhouse & Oyster Bar, recommended to us by bloggers, other restaurants and of course our Platinum Concierge. Expect seafood and steak with a modern twist.
Travelling to Charlottetown quickly gave us a Maritimes wakeup call. For one, there is a LOT to explore passed Toronto and Montreal. The flight from Toronto to Charlottetown was two hours east, and we hadn’t even hit the most eastern point of the country yet! Did you know that it takes 7 hours to fly from Victoria to Saint Johns? That’s across the entire country and longer than it takes to cross the Atlantic for those who don’t know their geography).. Secondly, the weather in the Maritimes is different. It’s wet, and cold. As a small island surrounded by a cold ocean, PEI summers start a bit later and last into the fall, making their most desirable times to visit, August, September and October.
We reluctantly picked up our luggage and without giving it another thought met with the lovely Garry Sowerby and his wife Lisa. Garry is a four-time world record holder for long-distance driving, we’re talking Guinness Book of World Records. It was incredibly fitting that he dropped off our ride for our seven day road trip exploring Canada. Check out his book, ‘driven mind‘, a copy of which he gifted us on our arrival (thanks Garry!)
It was really nice to have a brand new Buick Encore waiting for us at the airport. We literally jumped right into our trip heading straight for Charlottetown. It’s been a while since we explored something for the very first time and I loved the sense of adventure and the unknown. Charlottetown is a small town of 34,000, yet it is one of the most important places in our country; the birthplace of The Confederation! With a short history like Canada’s, it really does feel like we are not so far removed from all that’s passed. I highly recommend visiting the Confederation Centre of the Arts and walking Victoria Row. We loved browsing the little shops and cafes lining the street, and snacking on avocado toast at the Receiver Coffee Co.
Green Gables & Cavendish
About 40 minutes North of Charlottetown, just outside the quaint little town of Cavendish, was one of my most anticipated sites of the trip, Green Gables Heritage Placeand the little faux village of Avonlea. It was a DREAM! Because we landed just outside of the high season, most of the Avonlea shops were closed, but we did manage to score an amazing grilled cheese sandwich and had the whole place to ourselves so no complaints. I have to admit, I cried like a little baby at Green Gables. I grew up with the book, my mum read it to me when I was little, we watched the movies and shows together and she wasn’t there with me to experience it. It was a bitter sweet moment but I hope to take her there someday. If you know the books and you are in the area this is a MUST visit. The entire coast line on the north side of the island is worth the drive alone, the PEI landscapes are some of the most beautiful ones I’ve seen. A short drive east and we were at Dalvay by the sea, what inspired Anne of Green Gables’ White Sands hotel and I still want to cry just thinking how beautiful and untouched everything seems.
There are only two ways off PEI, the Ferry to Nova Scotia just south of Charlottetown and the Confederation Bridge to New Brunswick to the west. We took the latter way off the island, paid the $46 toll (you only pay one way, when you leave), took in the now obsolete lighthouses and drove the two lane bridge to the other side. It is the longest bridge over ice covered waters in the world. I’ll definitely be adding that to the list of the coolest places I’ve seen, along with the orange/red ocean water on the other side. Visit www.confederationbridge.com for more info.
Where to stay: Hilton Saint John
Where to eat: York Bistro Pub
Our visit to Saint John was short and sweet. We got caught in the rain on the way over so I don’t have any photos of Hopewell Rocks to show you like I hoped I would. We headed straight to the port city of Saint John. We checked in quite late and took the next morning exploring the old city market and areas surrounding the water. The works of John Hooper really gave the otherwise gloomy day some life. I hope to come back to Saint John one day and explore more of New Brunswick. Hopewell Rocks and the Hartland Bridge are just some of the items on my must-see list.
Trout Point Lodge
From now on when I get asked where to stay when you are in Nova Scotia, Trout Point Lodge will be on top of my list! It’s a destination in and of itself. Tucked away, it is a luxury lodge in the middle of the Nova Scotia wilderness, and holds a close resemblance to the Shire from the LOTR. Our room was ready upon our arrival with flowers from American Express Travel welcoming us into our upgraded room, yet another perk, since the Trout Point Lodge is part of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World benefits provided to Platinum Cardmembers! With the upgrade also came a complimentary daily continental breakfast for two. The vibe here was very calm and serene, the type of place you’d come to for relaxation and a digital detox because the only internet service you will get here is satellite, if you’re lucky. A true blessing in disguise if you ask me. This was the one point in our trip when we were able to put the phones away to really take in the beauty surrounding us. I will let the pictures do all the talking but I will point out the outdoor hot tub and saunas. There were two activities we couldn’t partake in because of the weather: star gazing and swimming in the lake, which I definitely want to come back and experience! Thanks again to our Amex Platinum Travel for booking this amazing hotel and coordinating a late (4pm!) checkout for us. We will definitely be back!
An hour drive outside of Halifax, the town of Lunenburg (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) looks like a movie set, it’s untouched and unreal. The candy coloured homes lining the streets reminded me of what I always thought New England was all about. Our Platinum Concierge recommended we check out The Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic and it was a definite highlight providing educational and interactive insight into the Maritimes and marine life. I saw what a scallop looks like for the very first time, touched a star fish and walked on deck of the bluenose II (made famous by the 10 cent coin). Apart from tourist attractions, the town is also rich in restaurants and shops. Pentper was one of our favourite discoveries, a modern, curated home accessories shop, this place is a sight for sore eyes. We ended up walking out with a new blanket, a diffuser and a new favourite shopping destination (they also offer online shopping, and yes, they take American Express). We ate our lunch at Salt Shaker Deli, a local recommendation and drooled over Lincoln Street Food, it was only open for dinner and by then we had to hit the road, another added to the list.
Neighbouring beautiful Lunenburg is another coastal gem, Mahone Bay. Though we only did a quick drive through, this would be the perfect spot for a day trip. Rebecca’s restaurant came highly recommended by the owner of Pentper, we tasted haskap berry ice cream and learned all about the origin of the berry in Nova Scotia (only other place in the world apart from Siberia where the fruit is grown). We discovered THE sweetest little bath and body shop, the sugar bubbles bath bakery, all the soaps are in shapes of pastries, chocolates and other treats. When I first walked in I actually thought I was looking at cupcakes.
THE quintessential Nova Scotia. Peggy’s cove is a town of 35 people (!!) and looks like a dream. The smooth rocks by the water and the lighthouse like a cherry on top of a cake. Nova Scotia is just THAT beautiful. There is an energy about the place, like you can hear the anger of the ocean roaring at you from below. arrived on a very overcast evening, it was almost ominous… and very VERY windy. I have a huge hate on for the wind but somehow it didn’t bother me here, it seemed fitting and it makes for the most epic photos.
Where to stay: Marriott Harbourfront Hotel
Where to eat: Lot Six, ask to be seated in the atrium, you will be blown away. Agricola Street Brasserie, French brasserie has a great atmosphere and equally delicious food. Our Amex Platinum Concierge made these two recommendations and secured our reservations. It was so nice we didn’t have to worry about a thing and could just enjoy! The Bicycle Thief, life changing seafood chowder, amazing atmosphere and waterfront location.
The capital city of Nova Scotia, another centre rich in Canadian History and home to some of the best restaurants on the east coast. The waterfront walk is home to some of the best attractions, Theodore Too from your childhood days and a great farmers market. Halifax is a great mix between old and new and is a good base for your visit. When in season, you can watch local performers while eating delicious seafood on the waterfront patios and spot many a locals wearing kilts. Alexander Keith’s Brewery tour offers an interesting perspective to the local history… sampling ales along the way can’t hurt either. Tours leave every half hour.
In a nut shell I am in love with the Maritimes and I couldn’t have seen it the way we did without the responsive team at Amex. As a Platinum Cardmember, American Express provided us with amazing personalized 24/7 service assistance throughout our trip. Another benefit we actually had to use (believe it or not) was the shopping coverage. It turned out that a few valuable items went missing from our bags at the Charlottetown airport.. It took us an entire day of endless stress to realize that we have purchase protection on those items made with our Amex Platinum Card. If that is not enough to convince you that you should be buying everything with your Amex, another great benefit of using the Card is that Platinum Cardmembers earn 1.25 Membership Reward points for every dollar spent.
The Platinum Concierge service is one of the best offerings for those of us with crazy busy lifestyles, 24/7 work calls, and avid travellers. Whether you need flowers delivered or something shipped halfway around the world, the Amex team is here to help you. With all the arrangements they took care of and the little extras we got along the way throughout our trip, like late check outs and room upgrades, I honestly cannot remember what it was like to travel without the help of Amex’s Travel team. To learn more about the wide array of Amex’s offerings and all the benefits of being a Cardmember CLICK HERE. We’ve only had our Platinum Card since January but every time we go to use it we find a new reason why it’s the bee’s knees.
This post was sponsored by Amex Canada. The views and opinions expressed in this blog, however, are my own.